G.W. Smith has left us an account no one wants to read or recycle. It's a total outlier and I give it here in its entirety without comment. From Smith's Confederate War Papers.
When we reached the vicinity of the Richmond and York River Railroad, at a point about midway between the Pamunky and Chickahominy rivers, General Johnston halted his army, and determined to contest McClellan's advance between these two streams. Longstreet's command and Smith's were again within easy supporting distance; and the troops, having rested from the tiresome service in the trenches and the march through deep mud, were elated at the idea of meeting the enemy on an open field of battle.* Mark this statement - it provides unique insight into the motive for the adoption of the Warwick line not found in other histories of this period.
The Chief Engineer of General Johnston's army, Major W. H. Stevens, and the Adjutant-General of General Smith's command, Major Jasper Whiting [brother of Gen. Wm. H. C. Whiting, commanding Smith's Division], were sent to Richmond, and directed to look after the state of the defences on the James River at and near Drewry's Bluff, some eight miles below.
One of the alleged advantages to be derived by sending the army to the lines of the Warwick River [earlier in the campaign, at the behest of Lee, Magruder and Davis] was to gain time enough to arrange these defences so as to prevent Richmond from being taken by water after Norfolk and Yorktown should be abandoned.* General Johnston had checked the enemy for several weeks, and we all supposed the James River had been blocked, and that every preparation possible had been made for the local defence of the capital.
On the 14th of May Major Stevens wrote from Richmond: “The enemy's gunboats are reported above City Point. They entered the Appomattox yesterday. The obstruction in the Appomattox is four and a half miles below Petersburg. There is nothing to prevent their landing at City Point or above, up to Drewry's Bluff, in force. The danger is on the south side of James River.”
The same day, but later, Major Whiting wrote to his brother, General Whiting: “Stevens and I have done all we can to stir up the imbeciles. It is perfectly discouraging to see how absolutely nothing has been done. Hood's brigade or yours (any good brigade) might save Richmond yet. I mean, keep back the gunboats. A little work, well done and quickly, will do it. . . . Show this to ‘G. W.,’ and come and help us.”
The next day, the 15th of May, Major Whiting wrote to General Smith from Drewry's Bluff: “It won't do to trust these people in any way. We can't get anything done. . . . If not too late, a good brigade under an energetic officer might perhaps save the city. A few more vessels sunk; a gun or two well placed, with bomb-proofs; some sharpshooters intelligently located—all with strong field-artillery and infantry supports, and some one in charge—might give us, or somebody else, time to do something above. Everything now is at odds and ends; everybody frightened; and everybody looking out for his own affairs. I have never been so much ashamed of our people before. . . . Can't you come here?”
This news from Drewry's Bluff and Richmond, and the attempt of the gunboats to approach the city, induced General Johnston to cross the Chickahominy.